Louis Theroux

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Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux at Nordiske Mediedager 2009.jpg
Theroux in 2009.
Born (1970-05-20) 20 May 1970 (age 45)
Education Westminster School
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
Occupation Documentary filmmaker, broadcaster
Spouse(s) Nancy Strang (m. 2012)
Children 3
Relatives Paul Theroux (father)
Marcel Theroux (brother)
Alexander Theroux (uncle)
Justin Theroux (cousin)
Website louistheroux.com

Louis Sebastian Theroux (/θəˈr/ LOO-ee thə-ROO);[1] (born 20 May 1970) is an English documentary filmmaker and broadcaster. He is best known for his documentary series, including Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, When Louis Met..., and his BBC Two specials. His career started in journalism and bears influences of notable writers in his family, such as his father Paul and brother Marcel. He currently works with the BBC producing his documentaries and television series.

Early life[edit]

Westminster School

Theroux is the son of the American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux (who is of French Canadian and Italian American descent).[2] His older brother is the writer and television presenter Marcel Theroux.[3] He is the cousin of American actor and screenwriter Justin Theroux who is married to Jennifer Aniston. Born in Singapore, he moved to the United Kingdom at the age of 12 months, and was brought up in London thereafter.[4]

Theroux was educated for a couple of years at Allfarthing Primary School before moving on to Westminster School. Whilst there he was a friend and contemporary of the comedians Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish, and the Liberal Democrat politician and former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg (with whom he travelled to America).[5]

After Westminster he read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford, attaining first-class honours.


Early career[edit]

Theroux's first employment as a journalist was with Metro Silicon Valley, an alternative free weekly newspaper in San Jose, California. In 1992, he was hired as a writer for Spy magazine. He was also working as a correspondent on Michael Moore's TV Nation series, for which he provided segments on off-beat cultural subjects, including selling Avon to women in the Amazon, the Jerusalem syndrome and the attempts by the Ku Klux Klan to rebrand itself as a civil rights group for white people. When TV Nation ended he was signed to a development deal by the BBC, out of which came Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends. He has guest-written for a number of publications including Hip-Hop Connection and he continues to write for The Idler.


Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends[edit]

In Weird Weekends (1998–2000), Theroux followed marginal, mostly American subcultures such as survivalists, black nationalists, white supremacists and porn stars, often by living among or close to the people involved. Often, his documentary method subtly exposed the contradictions or farcical elements of some seriously held beliefs. Theroux himself describes the aim of the series as: "Setting out to discover the genuinely odd in the most ordinary setting. To me, it's almost a privilege to be welcomed into these communities and to shine a light on them and, maybe, through my enthusiasm, to get people to reveal more of themselves than they may have intended. The show is laughing at me, adrift in their world, as much as at them. I don't have to play up that stuff. I'm not a matinee idol disguised as a nerd." Despite calls for a complete DVD set of the Weird Weekends series, only selected episodes have ever been available for purchase, although the entire 3 series' are available to view on Netflix.

When Louis Met...[edit]

Main article: When Louis Met...

In When Louis Met... (2000–02), Theroux accompanied a different British celebrity in each programme as they go about their day-to-day business, interviewing them about their lives and experiences as he did so. His episode about British entertainer Jimmy Savile, When Louis Met Jimmy,[6] who the NSPCC called one of the most prolific sex offenders in Great Britain,[7] was voted one of the top fifty documentaries of all time in a survey by Britain's Channel 4.[8] In When Louis Met the Hamiltons, the disgraced Tory MP Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine were arrested following false allegations of indecent assault during the course of filming.

In When Louis Met Max Clifford, Max Clifford tried to set Louis up. However, it backfired when Clifford was caught lying, as the crew was still recording his live microphone during the conversations. After this series concluded, a retrospective was aired called Life with Louis. He was meant to do a similar programme with Michael Jackson before Martin Bashir completed his documentary for ITV, but it was cancelled.[citation needed] Theroux went on to make a documentary called Louis, Martin & Michael about his quest to get an interview with Michael Jackson. Selected episodes of When Louis Met... were included as bonus content on a Best-Of collection of Weird Weekends. The entire series has never been released on DVD.

In an interview in 2015, Theroux expressed his intention to produce a follow-up documentary about Jimmy Savile for the BBC, exploring how the entertainer was able to abuse for so long, as well as meeting those who he knew closely.[9] The documentary is due to be aired in 2016.

BBC Two specials[edit]

In these special programmes, beginning in 2003, Theroux returned to American themes, working at feature-length, this time with a more natural tone. In March 2006, he signed a new deal with the BBC to make 10 films over the course of three years.[10] Subjects for the specials include criminal gangs in Lagos, Neo-Nazis in America, ultra-Zionists in Israel, child psychiatry and the prison system in California and Florida. A 2007 special, The Most Hated Family in America, received strong critical praise from the international media.

The Ultra Zionists[edit]

Main article: The Ultra Zionists

In The Ultra Zionists, Louis Theroux interviews a small group of ultra-nationalist Israelis at the border of advancing settlements in the West Bank.[11]

Along the way, he discovers a group of Jewish people who consider it a religious imperative for them to settle in some of the most widely disputed areas of East Jerusalem, especially areas with a spiritual significance set down in the Bible. The areas they choose to settle, though, are declared illegal by Israeli officials. One such individual is Daniel, a hardline nationalist from Australia, who works for an organization that provides homes for Jews in the overwhelmingly Palestinian East Jerusalem, Israel's annexations of which are not recognized by any other countries.[12]

My Scientology Movie[edit]

Main article: My Scientology Movie

In October 2015, Louis Theroux premiered a feature length documentary entitled My Scientology Movie. Produced by Simon Chinn - a schoolfriend of Theroux's - and directed by John Dower, the film covers Theroux attempting to gain access to the secretive Church of Scientology. The film was premiered at the London Film Festival and is due for wider release in the coming months.


His first book, The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures, was published in Britain in 2005. In the book Theroux returns to America to find out what has happened in the lives of some of the people he featured in his television programmes since he last saw them.[3]

Other appearances[edit]

As part of the Weird Weekends episode "Porn", Theroux agreed to film a cameo in the 1997 gay pornography film Take a Peak.[13] He did not perform sexual acts in the film, but made a brief appearance as a ranger in search of a criminal. In the Weird Weekends episode "Infomercials", he was featured as a live-salesman for an at-home paper shredder for the Home Shopping Network.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Theroux married Nancy Strang in 2012.[3] They have three children.[3] He currently lives in Harlesden, London.[3][15] In early 2013, he and his family temporarily moved to Los Angeles, California - allowing Theroux more time to focus on his LA Stories series.[16]

In a 2012 masterclass, Theroux spoke of the challenges of combining family life with the need to go away to work on projects.[17]

Theroux "Isn't totally atheistic" but whilst filming for his BBC show America's Most Hated Family in Crisis he stated Because I don't believe in God when asked Why...Pose a difference between religion and ethics. [18]

Awards and nominations[edit]

BAFTA Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
2002 Richard Dimbleby Award for the Best Presenter (Factual, Features and News) When Louis Met... Won
Flaherty Documentary Award (TV) When Louis Met... The Hamiltons Nominated
2001 Richard Dimbleby Award for the Best Presenter (Factual, Features and News) Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends Won

Emmy Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
1995 Outstanding Informational Series TV Nation Nominated

Royal Television Society Television Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
2010 Best Presenter A Place for Paedophiles Won
2002 Best Presenter When Louis Met... Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Say How? A Pronunciation Guide to Names of Public Figures". Loc.gov. Retrieved 20 August 2010. )
  2. ^ "You ask the questions: Louis Theroux". The Independent. 7 November 2001. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Aitkinhead, Decca (30 January 2011). "Louis Theroux: 'I'm not that comfortable doing polemic'". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Meet Louis Theroux". BBC. Retrieved 30 April 2012.  Archived here.
  5. ^ "The Nick Clegg story". BBC. 19 December 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2010. 
  6. ^ Lewis, Tim (22 March 2014). "Louis Theroux: 'You get to inhabit quite an intimate space'". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "BBC commissions Savile documentary". BBC News. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "Channel 4's "50 Greatest Documentaries"". IMDB. 18 Apr 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Theroux promises to raise stakes By Kevin Young, 20 April 2006, BBC
  11. ^ "Louis Theroux: The Ultra Zionists (2011)". IMDB. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Dowling, Tim (4 February 2011). "TV review: Marchlands, Louis Theroux: Ultra Zionists". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  13. ^ http://www.iafd.com/title.rme/title=take+a+peak/year=1997/take-a-peak.htm IAFD listing for "Take a Peak" (1997)
  14. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8nSepYBg-M
  15. ^ Nicholl, Katie (7 July 2012). "When Louis Theroux got married... he went to the pub to celebrate".  Archived here.
  16. ^ http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/louis-theroux-hope-jennifer-aniston-3363344
  17. ^ Louis Theroux Masterclass @ Docville 2012 on YouTube
  18. ^ http://www.celebatheists.com/wiki/Louis_Theroux

External links[edit]